Mar 222015


Pedernales Cellars Vermentino and Viognier: Found on My Mediterranean Isle of Texas – Update

I recently sat down to taste two new white wines from the 2014 vintage, both from Pedernales Cellars. This winery has been long known for their Viognier and expectations were high. After all, Pedernales Cellars has been a winner at the top levels of the wine world,  both in Texas and abroad.   In 2013, it was a Pedernales Cellars Viognier garnering Top Texas Wine in the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition and their Reserve Viognier brought home a Grand Gold at the Lyon International Wine Competition.

The other wine from Pedernales Cellars was a Vermentino, new to them but hardly a stranger in Texas thanks to noteworthy achievements with this grape by another Texas winery. None other than international wine luminary Oz Clarke has also heralded Vermentino as the white grape for Texas.

Pedernales Cellars 2014 Viognier was like sipping an elegant fruit cocktail, not the canned variety, rather something worthy of a Wolfgang Puck creation. It had prominent, aromatic notes; peach, pear and a mélange of tropical fruits, crisp acidity on the palate, and finishing with electrifying lemon citrus.

Pedernales Cellars 2014 Vermentino gave ripe Meyer lemon citrus followed by racy lemon zest that was enhanced by herbal notes of thyme and a finish that brings up the minerally limestone character of it’s new found Texas home.

As I tasted both these pleasing Pedernales Cellars wines with Mediterranean heritages, Vermentino from Sardinia and Italian coast, Viognier from southern France, my mind slipped into a bit of whimsical muse. As I tasted, I imagined Texas as an island, yet a rather large one, afloat in the Mediterranean Sea. After a few more sips and time to consider further, this thought did seem a bit preposterous and gave me a chuckle. I realized that the sea’s largest span was the Ionian Basin only 500 miles across.

Alas, not enough to fit our young but up-and-coming wine producing “island” state. Drink on!


For the Rest of the Story – Notes from Pedernales Winemaker David Kuhlken

This Pedernales Viognier was made with grapes from the Bingham Vineyards on the Texas High Plains using limited skin contact, cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks. A small portion of the wine underwent secondary malolactic fermentation adding mouth-feel and complexity. Before bottling the wine was fined and then filtered.

The Pedernales Vermentino was also made with limited skin contact, cool fermentation (small portion with malolactic fermenation) and fined/filtered starting with grapes from Andy Timmons’ Lost Draw Vineyard on the Texas High Plains.

It is important to note that 2014 vintage was important after the major loss of the 2013 High Plains crop to spring freezes. In 2014, there were again spring freezes on the High Plains. However Lost Draw Vineyards led the way in adding freeze protection systems and showed proof that such systems can really work in Texas. The season was slightly wetter and cooler than the previous seasons and has helped to create an exciting vintage with rich fruit.

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Jan 262015

Stone House Vineyard on Lake Travis

Russ Kane VintageTexas on SommChat Wednesday 1/28 11AM CT – Discuss Texas Hill Country Wines & Wineries

This January marks my 20th year since first finding out that Texas had a native (yet still infantile) wine industry and operating as a consumer, wine group director, wine writer and blogger. In 1995, there were less than 40 wineries in the whole state, but now Texas stands with over 300 wineries with at least 50 of them in the Texas Hill Country alone. January also marks this anniversary with the publication of my second book on Texas wines: Texas Hill Country Wineries (from Arcadia Publications) – a pictorial history and wine trail guide to the central Texas wineries and the Texas Hill Country wine experience.

This Wednesday morning at 11 am until 12 noon CT, I will go live on Sommchat, a one hour long twitter chat hosted by Keeper Collection. I will be there to discuss my book and answer your questions on the Texas Hill Country Wineries and why the Texas Hill Country was names to the Wine Enthusiast’s 2014 List of Top 10 Must See International Wine Destinations. I will be joined by members of the Texas Hill Country Wineries wine trail. I have also invited some of Texas’s best and brightest sommeliers to join us.

In my opinion, the Texas Hill Country is the culmination of over 300 years of wine culture that has evolved in Texas.

Texas grapes grows in soils made from ancient sea limestone deposits, similar to the grape-growing regions of Europe. Texas wine culture arrived in the 1600s with Spanish missionaries who settled and planted vineyards in El Paso Del Norte. The 1800s brought German and Italian immigrant farmers to Texas.They considered wine a staple of everyday life and found ways cultivate grapes in their new land and ways to keep the industry alive even during times of Prohibition.

In what is now America’s No. 5 wine-producing state and the Texas hill country contains the highest density of wineries in the state and one of the three largest American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the United States. It may surprise some, but not the wine aficionados who have visited the Texas Hill Country’s 50 or more wineries that wine-and-culinary tourism is currently the Texas Hill Country’s fastest growing sector.

Hope to tweet with you on SommChat this week.

— — — — —

To participate just use your Twitter account at, but don’t forget to use the hashtag #sommchat so others can see and follow what you tweet. You can also go to the TweetChat room set up for #Sommchat ( No registration is required; you can login using your Twitter account info. In the TweetChat room, participants are invited to follow tweets, add comments or tasting notes and share thoughts as participants taste and discuss the wines. Another Twitter chat website which works well is: On TweetChat and TChat the hashtag #sommchat will automatically be added.


 Posted by at 9:50 am
Jan 222015

Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom

Sneak Peeks: “Texas By The Book” Dinner Offerings from Chef Ross Burtwell

Last week I posted an announcement for the upcoming Friday February 27th Six-Course Texas Wine Dinner and book signing event with Chef Ross Burtwell, Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and me. Click here for details. Come to this event and start your Texas Hill Country weekend off right!

Well, Chef Burtwell has been in his Cabernet Grill kitchen in Fredericksburg “fine-tuning” the recipes for the event. Shown above is the Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom with Red Pepper Aioli and Pico de Gallo. This preparation has it all: savory, crunchy and spicy. I have paired this dish with Texas Hills Vineyard Sangiovese that will be presented by winery owner and winemaker Gary Gilstrap.

Shown below is Chef Ross’s rendition of Oyster Shrimphooley “Road House Style”…Fresh pecan-smoked Gulf oysters on the half shell topped with a mélange of Shrimp, garlic, butter and Parmesan. I can just about smell the briny, cheesy aromas from here. This dish is in the lead off position for our dinner event.  I have paired it will Duchman Family Winery Vermentino. It will be presented by winemaker Dave Reilly.


Oyster Shrimphooley

Included in the event price, attendees receive a set of three author-autographed books:

Tickets and further information are available from Cabernet Grill. Click here for more details.

 Posted by at 9:51 am
Jan 212015

VintageTexas Interview on Houston Matters: How the Texas Hill Country Became a Wine Destination

I welcome you to listen to my recent interview by Craig Cohen on Houston’s KUHF Houston Matters. I recorded this interview a couple weeks ago as I was nearing the release of my new book from Arcadia Publications, Texas Hill Country Wineries, that occurred earlier this week.

It is now available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Arcadia Publications websites. In the near future, the book will distributed to local book stores in the Houston, San Antonio, Austin and DFW areas and be available at winery tasting rooms around the Texas Hill Country. For your personalized, autographed copy of the book (signed by the author and sent by mail), go to the Wineslinger book purchase site at:

In this interview, I describe how the book covers the evolving wine heritage of Texas from Spanish missionaries in the 1600s to European immigrant farmers from Italy and Germany in the 1800s with vintage photographs and extended captions. It is a book that you can pick up, put down and pick up again as you please or keep it in your car;s glove box for easy reference while traveling.

The majority of the book focuses on the last 30 years and more recently on four hill country wine trails that meander around the Balcones Fault, Edwards Plateau, Route 290 and the Guadalupe and Colorado River areas.

The Texas Hill Country Wineries book is a wine lover’s field guide to the hill country wineries helping wine tourists find specific wineries and the types of wines they are seeking (red, white, dry or sweet). It’s like a birder’s field guide: filled with photos, maps and helpful hints. But, in this case, it is formulated for wine aficionados and tourists looking to satisfy their search for specify wineries and Texas wines in the Texas Hill Country.

For more information on the Texas Hill Country Wineries wine trail and the upcoming 2015 Wine Lovers Trail, go to:


 Posted by at 1:12 pm
Jan 152015

Chef Ross Burtwell, Chef Terry Thompson-Anderson, Russ Kane (aka Doc Russ Texas WineSlinger)

A Texas Food & Wine Extravaganza from Three Texas Authors: Texas by the Book 

When: Friday, February 27, 2015, 6:30 p.m.

Where: At Cabernet Grill – Texas Hill Country Restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas (2805 South State Highway 16, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
(830) 990-5734)

Texas wineries: Duchman Family Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, Texas Hills Vineyard, Pedernales Cellars, Bending Branch Winery, and Brennan Vineyards.

The Cabernet Grill Restaurant at the Cotton Gin Village in Fredericksburg, Texas, is pleased to announce a celebratory early-spring Texas wine and food dinner on Friday February 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm.  It will be a feast featuring fine Texas cuisine (six course, wine-paired menu below) prepared from recipes from the new cookbooks from two eminent Texas chefs: Chef and author Terry Thompson-Anderson and the Cabernet Grill’s own Chef Ross Burtwell using local and Texas-sourced ingredients. Texas wine pairings will be selected by Russell Kane (aka Doc Russ Texas Wineslinger), author of the new book, Texas Hill Country Wineries, a wine trail guide and photo history.

According to Cabernet Grill Owner and Executive Chef, Ross Burtwell, “This is a very unique event the likes of which I’ve not seen in the Hill Country or perhaps even Texas”.

The exciting part of this Texas food and wine extravaganza that Chef Burtwell eluded to is that it includes a six-course gourmet meal with each course paired with a premium Texas wine, with the wines presented by principals from six premium Texas wineries: Duchman Family Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, Texas Hills Vineyard, Pedernales Cellars, Bending Branch Winery, and Brennan Vineyards. Participating wineries, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Bending Branch Winery and Brennan Vineyards, are also part of the newly formed Texas Fine Wines.


Also included in the price of the event, attendees will receive signed/autographed copies of each of the three books:

But, wait there’s more: The books will be snuggled into a gift bag with coupons for wine tastings for two at each of the wineries and a discount on purchase at Fredericksburg’s UrbanHerbal.

Cost $250.00 per couple (one set of signed books) or $150.00 single (one set of signed books), including wine pairings, autographed copies of each of the three books, plus tax and 18% gratuity on the meal. NOTE: Reservations Only. Reservation deadline is Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

Tickets for this event are available from Cabernet Grill by phone: 830-990-5734 with credit card. This unique and special dinner event is expected to be a sellout, and there is only one seating. So, it is suggested that reservations be made as early as possible. All sales will be final.

(One Heck of a) Menu:

Oysters Shrimphooley – Duchman Family Winery Vermentino

Fresh pecan-smoked Gulf oysters on the half shell topped with a mélange of

Shrimp, garlic, butter and Parmesan


Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Soup with Avocado and Curry & Lime – Grape Creek Vineyards Cuvee Blanc

Giant lumps of backfin blue crab meat and an avocado wedge swimming

In a heady broth of curry, ginger, coconut milk, and lime, then napped with Scallion Coulis


Crisped Kitchen Pride (Texas) Portabella Mushroom – Texas Hills Vineyard Sangiovese

Breaded with panko breadcrumbs, then flash-fried and served on a

Bed of chiffonade romaine lettuce, drizzled with red pepper aioli and crowned with

A nest of tiny-dice pico de gallo

Served with

Pan de Campo –

“Camp bread” designated the official bread of the State of Texas by the Texas Legislature

And signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in 2005


A Surprise Course to Delight the Palate


Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin Steak topped with a Sauce of

Aged Brazos Valley Brie Cheese and Shitake Mushrooms – Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo

Smoked Wild Boar Leg with a complex Blackberry Mustard Sauce – Bending Branch Winery 2012 Texas Tannat
On a bed of Soft Polenta with Jalapeños & Onions


Salt & Pepper Chocolate Panna Cotta – Brennan Vineyards Portejas

A sinfully delicious concoction of heavy cream, chocolate, caramel, and port wine studded with sea salt flakes and topped with port-wine macerated sun-dried strawberries and a dusting of Freshly ground black pepper

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Jan 152015

Jennifer McInnis Comes to New Position at Bending Branch Winery


Bending Branch Winery is proud to announce that Jennifer McInnis will join its team January 26 as the company’s Marketing and Sales Manager. Jennifer will be responsible for marketing initiatives, social media and on premise restaurant sales.

Jennifer comes from the San Antonio Express-News, where she reported on the Texas wine industry for six years before being promoted to Food & Drink Editor of the Sunday Taste section in April 2014. The section has been awarded Best Newspaper Food Coverage in its circulation category by the Association of Food Journalists for four consecutive years, and her stories about Texas wine regularly appear on the front page of the Express-News.

She is a Houston native with 12 years of experience as a journalist, with previous positions at the Dallas Morning News and Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In 2008, she was a fellow in the Multimedia Editing Program at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Jennifer has a Mass Communications bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in San Marcos. She is a member of the San Antonio Sommelier Association and has attained Level 1 through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She also has served as a judge for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo S.A.L.E. Wine Competition and the San Antonio Wine Festival Competition.

Jennifer said, “I am proud to join the Bending Branch team during this exciting time for the winery and the Texas wine industry. It’s impressive what they have accomplished in a little more than five years, and I’m thrilled to play a role in helping them achieve their goals for the future,”

“We are incredibly impressed with Jennifer’s accomplishments over the last several years, as well as her comprehensive knowledge of the food and wine industry. We at Bending Branch Winery are very excited about the talent she adds to our team,” Winemaker John Rivenburgh said.

— — — — —

Bending Branch Winery, a boutique winery near Comfort, Texas, is a sustainable practices and organically focused operation with 20 acres of vines, comprising 16 varieties. Our wines include award-winning Petite Sirah, Picpoul Blanc, Cabernet, Souzao, Vermentino and Tannat. While Tannat, our signature grape, has quickly emerged as a true champion of the terroir unique to Texas, we have found great success with many more. For information, news and events, visit will join its team January 26 as the company’s Marketing and Sales Manager. Jennifer will be responsible for marketing initiatives, social media and on premise restaurant sales.


 Posted by at 12:09 pm
Jan 072015

Photo from

TM Wine Club by Texas Monthly – Focuses on REAL Texas Wines

It was announced this week that Texas Monthly is starting a new wine club. Details were provided on their website at:

According to this site, members will receive a regular supply of the world–class wines currently being produced in Texas, and around the world. Shipments occur throughout the year in the months of February, April, October, and December. They will avoid shipping in the summer months, as the extreme temperatures throughout Texas can adversely affect the wines. This effort is being organized by Austin-based journalist and author, Jessica Dupuy who is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators.

Jessica explained to me that all wines will be Texas Appellation only. The exception being, for times that TM Wine Club decides to do a comparison [with non-Texas wine] for Tempranillo, Sangiovese, etc, it will be clear in the shipment letter what the purpose for that is. All of the shipments will include a letter from Jessica explaining the selections. However, she stressed that all wines will be Texas Appellation wines for the first few shipments.


Jessica Dupuy (center) with Austin-based media colleagues Denise Clarke and Matt McGinnis at Texsom

For those struggling to interpret Texas wine labels and want to know what Texas appellation really means….

Texas appellation means that the wines will be from Texas wineries whose wines can (according to federal regulations) carry federally approved appellations in Texas indicated on their labels. Appellations are a protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used in the wine are from a specific district. According to these rules for a wine to carry a Texas appellation on the label, a wine needs to be made from at least 75% grapes actually grown in Texas or one of the seven Texas regional appellations such as Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country, etc. Wines that carry an “appellation-less” label that uses the phrase “For Sale in Texas Only” are not generally made from enough Texas grapes to qualify as Texas appellation and are from wine or grapes that come to Texas from California.

Jessica further explained, “Future shipments that may be comparisons for different varieties, i.e. Texas Tempranillos with a couple of Spanish Tempranillos… or Texas Sangiovese with a couple of Italian Sangiovese wines… This won’t be for a while, but we wanted to leave the option open to do a couple of fun comparative shipments to show how well some of Texas’ wines are doing in a global context.”

She also stressed that, “As the name of the club implies, this is a ‘Texas Wine’ club. It’s about Texas wine. And since I’m the only one picking the wines, you can be sure that’s the commitment I’ll have in working on these shipment selections moving forward.”

Jessica, it sounds like this will be a wine club that will finally focuses on REAL Texas wines! And, certainly one that old Sam Houston would be proud of.

The February TM Wine Club shipment, featuring Texas Monthly contributor Jessica Dupuy’s Best Texas Wines, is available to members only. Click here to join.

 Posted by at 12:02 pm
Dec 222014


2014 Top Texas Wines that Titillated My Taste Buds List (Part 2)

Well, I think that we’re about half way through my list. Memories keep popping-up and neurons flashing in my brain that keep reminding me of the wonderful Texas wine experiences that I’ve had this year. This has also call to my attention how fortunate we’ve been to have great “Vintage of the Century” years like 2010 and 2012. They have helped us collectively (both producers and consumers) in the aftermath of the incredible difficult vintages of 2011 (fire, heat and drought) and 2013 (multiple late spring freezes). Most of the white wines we have to enjoy currently are not from 2013 but from 2012.

One of my stops earlier this year was in Plains, Texas, to attend Newsom Vineyards 2014 Grape Day. Thinking back, I’m thankful for being able to attend this year’s event where I had the opportunity to meet new growers and re-establish connections with those I’ve known for years, now a decade or more. Most of all, it presented the opportunity to taste a few wines that I likely wouldn’t have had the occasion to taste. Two notables, both Roussannes, are presented together to start off the second half of this year’s “Notables” list.

Arché Wines 2012 Roussanne and Eden Hill Vineyard 2013 Roussanne

The first Roussanne came courtesy of Howard Davies who presented winemaker-son Grayson’s Arché Winery 2012 Roussanne, fresh from its platinum award at the San Diego International Wine Competition. I caught a taste before the bottle was emptied. This Roussanne proved its mettle; vivid and rich nutty and lemon citrus aromas, great acidity balancing the grape’s viscous feel and gave attendees a taste of its Saint Jo Red River Valley heritage. The other was the 2013 Roussanne (Oswald Vineyard) with ripe lemon citrus and tropical pineapple carrying an overlay of nutty nuances and a silky mouthfeel. Please stop and think for a minute: this white grape could be destine for true Texas stardom (even more so that our state’s current favored white – Viognier. Every year a new one and a good one seem to appear as if by magic. But, in my opinion, it’s not magic, it’s destiny.

Pedernales Cellars 2012 Reserve Tempranillo

This wine has gained so many accolades that my first thought was wine bother included in my 2014 list. However, this IS a very special wine. Once to taste the Pedernales Cellars 2012 Reserve Tempranillo you know that it’s worthy of every bit of praise it has received. My taste came during my 2014 VintageTexas Tempranillo Day tasting shared with family and friends in Houston. The good thing about truly great wines is that they require few words. All I will say is that this Tempranillo was artfully made David Kuhlken and highlights dark cherry, earthy minerals, truffle, tobacco with firm tannins and a smooth lengthy finish. If you can still find this wine, or at least beg a taste or two, get as much as you can and it will please (either in your mind or cellar) for years to come.

Fall Creek Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Texas)

The Fall Creek Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc came to my glass during a tasting of Texas wines held at the Red Room Lounge in Austin. It was poured by the hand of the Fall Creek winemaker, Sergio Cuadra, and I was asked to taste it blind. The wine had such floral elegance in the glass that my first reaction was that it had characteristics that I’d only experienced in Viognier or Muscat, but this wine was much lighter bodied and brought an underlying note of green grass. Even after Cuadra told me that it was made from Sauvignon Blanc grown at Mesa Vineyards near Fort Stockton, I retorted something like “And, you blended in some Viognier or Muscat, right?”. Wrong! This wine is pure unadulterated Texas Sauvignon Blanc and, as far as I’m concerned, at its all-time best. You might still find some of this wine around at Spec’s or other wine shop.


Kiepersol Estate 2012 Stainless Syrah (Texas) No Oak

While at Kiepersol Estate for the release of their new grape-based vodka called Dirk’s Vodka, I came in early and had a chance to taste several of winemaker Marnelle Durret’s wines, some in bottle and some still in barrel and some bottled but not released. One thing that always is of interest to me at Kiepersol is what a great job they do with Syrah. Sometime it’s in their featured release of Barrel 33 and other times it’s their Estate barrel aged Syrah. But, this year it was their Stainless Syrah. It is amazing how extracted, dark, intense and grippy this Syrah is on the palate. In addition, it has an amazingly sense of terroir that I’ve come to associate with this estate vineyard. Add to this, clean aromatics of wild cherry, strong Earl Grey tea and a finish of a good char on BBQ beef brisket. If I’ve made you hungry for this wine, great…go for it!

Haak Vineyards and Winery, 2008 Madeira Blanc Du Bois

While I believe the current vintage of the Haak Madeira Blanc Du Bois offered at the winery in Santa Fe, Texas, is 2011 or 2012, I found this bottle of the 2010 vintage on the shelf at Spec’s in Houston. I had no fear as Madeira, by virtue of its method of extended Estufagem barrel aging at 105 F, is the most stable-for-the-long-haul wine you will find anywhere in the world. However, the things that make this wine worthy of distinction are the elements of the tasting experience this process produces: concentrated dried apricot, caramel toffee, countered with notes of Asian tea and lemon-tangerine citrus. I’m sure that the 2011 or 2012 will be similar as these are produced by what happens to Blanc Du Bois by this unique aging process. Also, recommended is the equally good Haak Madeira Jacquez that provides a more classic Madeira wine with intense walnut and hazelnut notes along with a hint of salty sea air. These wines are perpetual gold medal winners where ever they go and are a unique Texas product to share is others. I think that I will again tonight!



The downside of this type of list is that they could and should go further than the limited number of wines presented. Secondly, not all of these wines are still available, but please check your local supermarket, wine shop, Spec’s or even at the winery. I’ve sometimes been surprised what shows up long after the words “Not Available” are spoken. Also, if not available locally, in most cases, Texas wineries can, in most cases, ship their wines right to your doorstep or to your drop ship location (Mine is a friendly wig salon near my house that has an adult to sign for the shipment five days a week).

I hope you find the Texas wines you want for your holiday and year-end festivities. Please drink in moderation, plan for designated drivers when and if needed, and celebrate well with family and friends at this wonderful joyous time of year.

Drink well, my friends.

Russ Kane, Doc Russ Texas Wineslinger.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 Posted by at 1:28 pm